California’s high-speed rail project faces a large setback after a judge declared that the project needs more analysis before it can tap certain bonds. From the Associate Press:
Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny rejected a request from the California High-Speed Rail Authority to sell $8 billion of the $10 billion in bonds approved by voters in 2008, saying there was no evidence it was “necessary and desirable” to start selling the bonds when a committee of state officials met last March.
He said the committee, which included state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, was supposed to act as “the ultimate `keeper of the checkbook’” for taxpayers, but instead relied on a request from the high-speed rail authority to start selling bonds as sufficient evidence to proceed.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the FBI is looking into the activities of a lawmaker with regards to a tax credit proposal he made. From the article:
Calderon pushed to extend tax breaks to productions of less than $1 million. He and family members received a total of $10,800 in campaign contributions from an independent producer who could have benefited from the change Calderon advocated.
Although California recently created regulations that would permit ridesharing groups like Lyft to legally operate in California, Los Angeles International Airport is forbidding them from operating. The issue revolves around fees the airport collects from cab drivers, which some ridesharing groups tend not to collect. From Los Angeles Daily News:
Most saw the decision as carte blanche for ride-share drivers to pick up customers anywhere in California. But that’s not true. The decision left intact regulations that allow airports to decide who may pick up on their property.
We’ve written previously on the restrictions the state put on rideshare companies in California, but now we have some good news.
Cyrus Farivar at Ars Technica writes about some good news: rideshare services in California, once proclaimed illegal by the state, have now been legalized – if the companies follow some new rules.
Ridesharing has finally been approved within the state of California. Today, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) officially recognized companies like Lyft, Sidecar, and Uber as “New Online Enabled Transportation Services” or “Transportation Networked Companies” (TNCs), approving a set of 28 rules and regulations for these entities. The move will allow ridesharing companies to continue operating around the state without fear of further government action against them.
Richmond, California has decided to take the mortgage crisis into its own hands by authorizing a policy of seizing underwater mortgages from banks. Once seized, the city will refinance the mortgages with residents. This process is a blatant abuse of government power and undermines property rights. From Reuters:
Richmond can now invoke eminent domain if trusts for more than 620 delinquent and performing “underwater” mortgages reject offers made by the city to buy the loans at deep discount pegged to their properties’ current appraised prices to refinance them and reduce their principal.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute reports that 58 new regulations were published last week. That’s fewer regulations than normal, likely a result of the four day work week. Oddly enough, one of the new regulations lowers the assessment rate for date growers in Riverside County, California – but nowhere else. Curious.
The future of high-speed rail in California is in question after a court ruled that parts of the rail plan aren’t aligned with the ballot initiative authorizing state bonds. Steven Greenhut at Reason writes:
The judge said the rail authority “abused its discretion,” but Gov. Jerry Brown declared that it was full speed ahead, despite the setback.
Few observers seemed surprised by the ruling. Even a father of high-speed rail in California, former judge and Sen. Quentin Kopp, provided expert testimony stating that the current rail plan is so “distorted” it is contrary to the one approved by voters.
And not for any error of their own. The tax breaks were declared illegal five years after they were awarded. Oddly enough, the tax breaks were to small businesses – businesses that may have tremendous difficulty paying them back. And although tax breaks are a form of corporate welfare, it’s tough to imagine how retroactively taxing the companies will be good for the state. From Fox News:
“It sends a message that you can’t trust government,” Ken DeVore with the National Federation of Independent Businesses tells CBS Sacramento. “If you comply in good faith with the rules, they can go back and penalize you.”
California’s high-speed rail project is having difficulty finding a construction company and obtaining federal permits.The project is fighting a looming deadline, as they’ll lose billions of dollars in federal aid if the money is not spend by 2017. Watchdog Wire adds:
To make matters worse, a ruling is expected from a lawsuit that states the project is in violation of the terms of a 2008 voter-approved ballot initiative that makes $9 billion available for the project.
Michael Hiltzik, a journalist for the Los Angeles Times, details the latest round of corporate welfare from LA County taxpayers to the Westfield Group. Westfield is scheduled to receive $59 million in tax breaks while it develops a new mall that it likely would have built anyway:
Big, wealthy mall developer Westfield Group is typical of businesses that get tax breaks by the boatload from L.A. County. That means millions in foregone revenue that could pay for schools and parks.